After one of his most romantic collections to date, things quickly turned gothic with McQueen’s following collection ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Howe’ (which can be seen in full here). Once again the designer reached into his own past to pull inspiration for the show, basing it around a distant relative that was executed in the Salem witch trials. The set, with its red crystal pentagram and huge video screens depicting a naked woman writhing around in limbo, set the scene for a sartorial exploration of the history of witchcraft.
The show begins with a rock soundtrack and signals the introduction of the Pagan era of witchcraft. In its beginnings Paganism was most closely associated with Christianity and the idea of witches in the Pagan religion focused mainly around sorcery and alchemy. More specifically, ‘witches’ were often recruited to act as midwives as they could perform spells and rituals which would encourage fertility and encourage childbirth, a subject which the designer explores via the new cocoon silhouette debuted at the start of this show. The silhouette is designed to mimic the folds of the ovum and represent fertility – it also marks a move away from McQueen’s trademark nipped-in waists and demonstrates versatility.
The show then moves on to the ancient Egyptians and the pyramids, strongly represented by the literal interpretation of Elizabeth Taylor’s graphic eye make-up in the Cleopatra film. The heavy use of metallic gold in the colour palette echoes the decadence of ancient Egypt and leads to some of the show’s most impressive looks. The structure of the dresses is rigid like armour, designed to represent protection – they’re teamed with chic black ankle boots with golden heels, introducing the warrior-like McQueen woman that we know so well. It is here that we also see unbridled glamour, especially in the form of a floor-length gold sequinned gown as well as a sequinned bodysuit complete with a gold metal bodice.
Blood red slowly becomes a predominant colour theme for obvious reasons, resulting in a series of pieces made in burgundy leather. Perhaps the most impressive of these pieces is a dress with a full skirt – the leather bodice of the dress is slit open to reveal layers of stiff burgundy ruffles beneath, giving the impression that the model has been cut open and that the burgundy represents her dried blood (an appropriately violent image given the flames that flicker on the video screen behind.
McQueen then seems to move onto the concept of necromancy as we see the projections show a corpse-like face crying tears of blood. The colour palette swiftly shifts to black and the religious imagery is ushered in in the form of crystal crucifixes which adorn gothic floor-length gowns. The black is often interspersed with splices of forest green or softened slightly with the addition of sheer panelling and lace, and towards the show’s finale we see a series of classic black dresses embellished with glimmering sequins of every metallic hue. One model walks the runway in a nude mask decorated with gold and black beading which hides her face, and another walks with her face painted gold as we see the image of a nude woman slowly being overcome by blood behind her. The dresses in the collection are Egyptian glamour at their best and the concept is flawlessly executed and deliciously morbid. It also saw the perfect springboard for the designer to launch his Egyptian make-up collaboration with MAC cosmetics – a sign that he was fast learning to combine creative flair with business sense.